The role of the private sector - Points and Counterpoints

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The role of the private sector - Points and Counterpoints

Post by admin » Wed Sep 29, 2004 11:26 am

Right off the bat, I start with a disclaimer. I am not offering here my own analysis of the role of the private sector and the country's elite. Rather it is a computer-aided survey of the points and counterpoints already offered on this forum by three gentlemen: Charles Arthur, Patrice Backer, and Henri Deschamps. </p>
In "Another disaster in Haiti: we name the guilty parties" and later in "The floods - who is to blame?", Charles Arthur writes:
  • [quote]Billions and billions in international aid has been lent to Haitian governments, but the focus has remained on governance, security, elections and support for the private sector. [/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]At the international donors' conference in Washington DC. in July, yet again the focus was on support for the urban private sector.[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]By, once more, doing everything to preserve the dominance of the country's immensely rich elite, and nothing to support the peasantry, the international community is complicit in the loss of life and misery caused by this, and future, natural disasters in Haiti.[/quote][/*:m]
  • [quote]Foreign aid to Haiti has been turned on and off, but nearly all of it has been allocated to governance, security, elections and support for the private sector.[/quote][/*:m]
  • [quote]A nation of small-holders developed. Meanwhile, the country's ruling elite congregated in the coastal towns, living off the spoils of agricultural export taxes and plundering the national treasury.[/quote][/*:m]
In a letter to Charles Arthur, Patrice Backer offered the following counterpoints:
  • [quote]the continuous mantra that everything that happens in Haiti (almost always bad) can always be linked to the country's "immensely rich elite" is starting to ring hollow.
    Is every event the result of occult maneuvers by the "elite"? How do you define this elite?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Have you actively looked into the reasons why INARA was a spectacular failure? Can you claim that the "elites' are behind these events? If yes, which "elites" this time? Have you spoken to Bernard Etheart about the reasons for the failure of that land reform program? [/quote][/*:m]
  • [quote]As for support for the private sector, I challenge you to provide proof of what you claim. Judging by the statement [ "Bill
    ions and billions of dollars..." (Ed.) ], we should have had quite a private sector by now. Yet, from 1988 to today, we have witnessed a continuous pauperization of the private sector. The latter suffered a severe blow with the 1993 embargo, which basically decimated the assembly industry and drove many into bankruptcy. Haiti's growth rate never recovered, neither did our economy. So where did these billions of dollars go that were supposed to prop up the private sector? Can you provide us with precise accounting?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Let's talk about subsidies and support to the agricultural sector. It is quite interesting that you mention it. I had several discussions with growers from the Bas-Artibonite and the Plateau Central who were tired of being shafted by all the so-called experts and institutions that were there to assist them. For the longest time, ODVA was supposed to help them, but nothing happened. The BCA went bankrupt many years ago because of mismanageme
    nt and fraud. BNDAI went under during the Duvalier era because of mismanagement and fraud. Were these doings of the elite? So Are the elites running ODVA?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Let's talk about the latest scam concerning fertilizers. Japan gave to Haiti numerous grants of fertilizers that were supposed to be sold to growers by ODVA at a subsidized rate of H$75. Instead the growers now have to buy these fertilizers in the OPEN market at a cost of H$160 a bag. Are the elites the ones running the scam? Or is it political appointees, holdovers from the Lavalas era (since they controlled ODVA for about 14 years), who have transformed that institution into their personal piggy bank?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Protection from cheaper imports, you say? I guess the question is why any government abdicated its responsibilities and agreed to set the lowest tariffs in the Caribbean unilaterally, even below those of other CARICOM countries. The losers wer
    e not only, inter alia, the rice growers of the Artibonite Valley, but also the entrepreneurs who had set up food processing facilities in the country. They just could not compete against goods that were subsidized overseas. To claim that only the agriculture sector suffered is to ignore the segment of "production nationale" private sector that went under as well. No one talks about them, but they lost out just as well, and along with their businesses, gone were the jobs and the impact on local communities. So the elites did that too?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]As for reforestation, you might be surprised to know that a cadre of idealist Haitians (should I say dreamers?) with foreign funding worked hard to preserve many "protected" sites in our country, like the Forêt des Pins and the Macaya Park. Yet these projects were given no support under the Lavalas government, surprisingly enough, despite funding. Worse yet, an acquaintance of mine who served as a volunteer warden at the
    Macaya Forest was kicked out by locals who claimed that that area was to be protected only by FL supporters. What can I say? Is this the shadowy hand of the elite?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]I am enclosing the full budget of the CCI for your review, and I invite you to draw your own conclusions as to whether the focus is really on the urban private sector... The private sector gets 2.1% of the total budget; the Agricultural sector gets 8.6%. The agriculture world gets 4 times what the Private sector get. The overwhelming majority of this plan is not a private sector gravy train, nor is it a gift to the elites. The beneficiaries are more likely to be at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder than at the top. But why let the facts get in the way?[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]In fact, at the World Bank meetings in Washington, the private sector got short shrift as it was not even discussed during the OFFICIAL meetings. To accommodate the private sector
    members who made the trip to Washington, the US Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting for the private sector (the only one devoted to the Private sector) on the Wednesday following the OFFICIAL meetings at the World Bank.[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Your silence on the losses suffered by the private sector, both formal and informal, is eloquent. The damage wrought, the bankruptcies, the lost jobs were not apparent to outsiders who know little about the economy. But we all saw what happened with the start of school in September. To pretend that the private sector is a leech that does nothing but suck the blood of all the others - as you imply - is to ignore that you cannot have a well-functioning economy without that private sector. The illusion that the Haitian private sector is doing well and getting wealthier all the time is just that, an illusion.[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]You throw out a few statements about the issues of agriculture; you h
    ave some peripheral comments about the government's efforts to funnel everything to the private sector when the record shows otherwise; you throw in the traditional accusations against the elite for good measure, and, presto, we come to the conclusion that this whole effort is nothing more than a conspiracy to make the private sector richer. I guess someone forgot to tell them that.[/quote][/*:m]
In "We name the guilty parties?", Henri Deschamps offered the following counterpoints to Charles Arthur's article:
  • [quote]The traditional and new elite, economic or otherwise, are very far from immensely rich by even the wildest reach and stretch of your highly vivid imagination (or is that your livid imagination).[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]The traditional elite have fallen proportionally far beh
    ind the new elite in the last 40 years. The people you think have the money are not necessarily the ones that do. And even those that do, are insignificant in terms of wealth when compared with our regional neighbors, much less the developed world. Just so we get our vocabulary right, for me anyone with over two million dollars in the bank, that actually belongs to him, is immensely rich. How many of those do you think exist? In both cases, 98% of what passes for the immensely old or new rich, cannot afford to buy a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan. [/quote][/*:m]
  • [quote]The problem, as you well know (...) is not that the top is too high, or that it is squeezing the bottom, the problem is the bottom has a hard time rising. Maybe we might give some thought to enabling the bottom to the best of our abilities without putting them at war with anyone, themselves to begin with, and those of other colors or social classes to end with.[/quote][/*:m]
  • [quote]If you can blame us, why can't we blame you? In my mind forthwith all our problems can be directly traced back to Britannia and I will work on a piece that demonstrates that particular pabulum, certainly as deftly as your own article demonstrates our diabolical oppression. Although, we do not consider ourselves immensely rich, I do get the distinct impression you are talking about a group to which in your mind we belong.[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Our nation is poor, there is no doubt. I am equally certain there are probably only one-three people in the private sector who could be described as immensely rich by Richond-upon-Thames standards. We may more accurately and more constructively be defined as lacking sufficient investment in our collective shared space and that is something we can attempt to do something about as urgently as possible. We are all poor. The roads stink, there is no electricity, the housing sub-human, not enough hospitals, insufficient access
    to rewarding work.[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Quite frankly when we are tallying up the damage done to this country I believe the devil and his work can be more accurately found at http://www.fordi9.com.[/quote] [/*:m]
  • [quote]Is it a secret to you that man, here and everywhere, is not generally as concerned by the progress of his brothers and sisters as he might be if a responsible citizen... I can assure you I much prefer to work on a job description entitled "Responsible Citizen of Haiti" than to sit around attacking whatever group you belong to.[/quote][/*:m]
As much as I was able to do so, I listed all the major arguments and counter-arguments that were made by the three gentlemen (and esteemed forum members). The context of those remarks is the role of the private sector and the country's (disproportionately rich?) elite and their part of responsib
ility in Haiti's disastrous environment, which is aggravated by the very means of survival of the Haitian countrymen, driven to despair in a country regularly billed as "The Poorest Country In The Western Hemisphere". It is hoped that further discussions will be specific to the arguments presented.I want to make two quick points here:

a) there is practically no differentiation made in the above discussion between the private sector and the richest (and minute) segment of Haiti's population. Why is that? Are they one and the same? Is that the elephant before my eyes that I failed to see?

b) In fairness to Charles Arthur, I should point out that the most substantive part of his article condemns most directly the policies of globalization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Bank of Development, and generally "the current government [of Haiti] - with the suppor
t of the international finance institutions and the European Commission". While Henri Deschamps and Patrice Backer's spirited responses contain invaluable food for thought, one could easily be led to believe by the unmistakably angry tone of their replies that Charles Arthur dedicated most if not all of his article to a rigorous assault against Haiti's private sector and rich elite. I do invite all to read again the original articles.

Certainly, Charles Arthur argues FOREMOST that global economic policies have contributed mightily to impoverish Haiti's masses while supporting Haiti's private sector (obviously, to an extent). There are lots of economists, international finance experts, and sociologists who have made the same point over and over again, in numerous papers, books, and essays. To be more specific, consult for instance our own Fred Doura (MONDIALISATION - EXCLUSION SOCIALE ET MARGINALISATION DES PAYS SOUS-DÉVELOPPÉS) or Alex Dupuy (HAITI IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER: THE LIMITS OF THE DEMOCRA
TIC REVOLUTION). There are countless other references that say (and demonstrate) the very same things. Why is it exactly that Charles Arthur has struck such a nerve? Honestly, while I appreciate the fine points made particularly by Patrice Backer in his rebuttal, I am just trying to understand the surprising level of resentment that was directed at Charles Arthur in particular.

I am certain to offer more of my own thoughts on the issues raised here, in the course of the discussions that will follow. For the time being, I just want to frame a little better the contributions made already to our forum.

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